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Florida couple charged in death of baby left in hot car overnight after 4th of July party

<i>Polk County Sheriff's Office/Facebook</i><br/>Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd speaks at a Thursday news conference over the death of an 18-month-old who was left in a hot car.
Polk County Sheriff's Office/Facebook
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd speaks at a Thursday news conference over the death of an 18-month-old who was left in a hot car.

By Jamiel Lynch, CNN

(CNN) — A Florida couple has been charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of an 18-month-old girl who died after being left in a hot car overnight following a Fourth of July party, police said.

Joel and Jazmine Rondon, both 33 and residents of Lakeland, went to a Fourth of July celebration with their three young children and didn’t return home until roughly 3:00 a.m. early next morning, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The family left the party around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news conference Thursday.

According to Judd, Jazmine took the older children – ages eight and six – into the home, telling Joel to bring the baby into the home. Joel said the car doors were open as he brought food trays into the home, then he noticed the back door of the car was shut when he was done. He said he thought Jazmine had brought the child inside, Judd said.

“He went inside and laid down in bed with his wife. Neither husband nor wife asked each other if they had brought the victim inside. They went to sleep,” according to the sheriff’s office news release.

At around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, as he was getting ready for work, Joel asked one of the children to go “check on the baby” in the bedroom, but the child told Joel the baby wasn’t there, according to the release.

At that point, Joel began looking for the child and then went outside and looked in the car, which was parked in the driveway “in the full sun,” the release said, before he found the child “still strapped in her car seat and unresponsive.”

The couple rushed the baby to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.

The heat index that day was 105 degrees, Judd said on Thursday. The child’s internal body temperature was over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the sheriff’s office said.

At around 7:00 p.m., after the baby was pronounced dead, Joel and Jazmine underwent drug screening by the Department of Children and Families, according to authorities. Joel tested positive for meth, marijuana, and alcohol; Jazmine tested positive for marijuana and alcohol, the sheriff’s news release said.

An autopsy determined the child’s manner of death is homicide and her cause of death was hyperthermia “due to being left in a car,” according to the sheriff.

Both Jazmine and Joel have been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, Judd said. They were taken into custody on Thursday and booked into the Polk County Jail.

The couple’s other children have been placed with relatives, the sheriff said.

“This rips your heart out; there’s no other way to explain it,” Judd said.

“This is not an accident; this is pure negligence and I suggest to you the core of the negligence is the abuse of drugs and the use of drugs,” he added.

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CNN’s Emma Tucker contributed to this report.

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